Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Over the Rainbow with Isaac Newton

Paul Baldauf PhD


This is an interdisciplinary language arts and science lesson focusing on the nature of rainbows. (composition of light) It includes a poetry assignment and a science experiment with an assessment.


The student prepares for writing by recording thoughts, focusing on a central idea, grouping related ideas, and identifying the purpose for writing.

The student knows that most things that emit light also emit heat.

The student knows the many ways in which energy can be transformed from one type to another.

The student knows that, through the use of science processes and knowledge, people can solve problems, make decisions, and form new ideas.


- Transparency of a rainbow
- Overhead projector
- Computers with Internet access
- Prism for each group of students
- Flashlight for each group
- Colored Pencils
- Paper
- Pencil or pen


1. Prepare computers for students to do Internet research.
2. Locate a sunny window for using the prism and a suitable surface for projecting the rainbow images.
3. Gather materials for experiments.
4. Duplicate worksheet for students.


1. Present transparency of rainbow on overhead and instruct students. Ask the students to look at the rainbow and write down their feelings and ideas as they watch. Suggest that they list words or phrases to describe the colors, sensations, comparisons, etc. (5-8 minutes)

2. Ask students, “Who wants to share what you’ve written?” Allow students to share their words, phrases, etc.

3. Instruct students to compose a poem based on their brainstorming. Suggest that they can create a free verse poem, a rhyming poem, an acrostic, or Haiku. Students may use whatever format that they feel comfortable with.(15 minutes)

4. When this assignment is completed, call on students who choose to share their poems. Allow for revisions and additions. For homework, have students make a final copy to be turned in the next day for assessment.(5-7 minutes)

5. Give a brief biographical history on Isaac Newton and his accomplishments/contributions. (5 minutes)

6. Assign students computers and the resposibility of researching online the contributions of Isaac Newton. Caution students that information about his life is not the focus of their research.

7. Students compose a three-paragraph essay on their thoughts on rainbows now that they are familiarized with the scientific factors behind them. As students are working, circulate and offer feedback to help students focus and keep their writing on task.

Day Two
1. Explain that light is composed of many different colors. (wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation) Make sure that you cover this well enough that students will be able to complete the worksheet. (see associated file)

2. Show the class a prism, letting light from the outside come through the prism to form a "rainbow."

3. Ask each group to work with the prisms at their desks, creating a rainbow. Ask each group to draw a diagram of the rainbow using colored pencils.

4. Ask the groups to shine the flashlight through the prism. Draw another diagram of the rainbow using colored pencils. Ask the students to brainstorm why the two rainbows are different. Offer feedback and suggestions to help students arrive at the correct conclusion as necessary.

5. Hand out the "What is your knowledge of the composition of light?" Word document (see Associated File) to assess students' knowledge of the science lesson.

6. Circulate and offer feedback and help as needed.


Assess the written assignments for ability to focus on a central idea and identifying the purpose for writing. Take care to encourage students to summarize information taken from secondary sources, including Webpages and the encyclopedia.
Assess students'science knowledge using the "What is your knowledge of the composition of light?" Word document in the associated file.

Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


For a home learning assignment, ask the students to turn on the sprinkler in the yard and spray in different directions until a rainbow appeared.

An alternative to using store bought prisms is to use an ingenious arrangement of a pan full of water and a mirror. The pan of water is placed on the floor in full sunlight. The mirror is oriented toward the sun, reflecting toward the wall above the window or the ceiling. This should also produce a rainbow, at significantly less expense. The second link listed in weblinks gives a diagram of this experiment.

Web Links

Web supplement for Over the Rainbow with Isaac Newton
Biographic information for Newton

Web supplement for Over the Rainbow with Isaac Newton
Rainbow experiment webpage

Attached Files

What is your knowledge of the composition of light?     File Extension: pdf

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